Sunday, 30 December 2012

New year, new direction, new commitment...

It has been a long time since I wrote anything in this blog and I think the new year is  perfect time for me to rethink my approach to the blog.

My initial intention with this was to write a something at least five times a week on any topic that came to mind. I managed that for over two months, but then work and other commitments distracted me and I stopped writing regularly and eventually not at all.

I am currently out of regular work and, I am doing a bit of free-lance research and hoping to get a bit of ghost writing, but I am not doing anything much. I have decided to use the extra time to get back on top of writing my own projects. I have finished one flash fiction this week and started work on another short story. I am also close to completing the script I have been asked to write for a friends film project, a project I am very excited about. All in all a good few weeks on the writing front.

This renewed writing vigour left me to ruminate on what to do with this blog and I have decided to continue it in a new manor. I am hoping to post regularly, although maybe not five time a week, and it is now going to focus on my thoughts on whichever current area interests me. At present it is the inter-relationship of narrative and ideology, and to that end I am intending to write my thoughts on different aspects of popular culture and how these can be understood in terms of narrative.

These blogs will be intended to help me develop my own thoughts, so please feel free to challenge me on all of them. I am always open to honest criticism.

I want to make it clear that I will be trying to look at this dispassionately, my reading of the narrative will not be an endorsement of the narratives ideology, merely an attempt to recognise it and understand how it is effective.

I hope you all enjoy the new direction for the blog, and I look forward to some very interesting and challenging comments.

I hope you all have a happy and fruitful 2013.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Mixed feelings about Thorn's dismissal.

Sorry, another football blog, and my first post in a month. I really need to find more hours in the day.

Yesterday my beloved Coventry City Fc, I shall pause here to say Play Up Sky Blues, announced the departure of Andy Thorn and the start of a search for our twelfth manager in as many years since dropping through the Premier League trap door.

It was with mixed emotions I received the news from a friend of mine. He started my expressing the belief that the club we both support is a joke and I was quick to agree with him (for a full list of reasons you will need to research the history of the club starting from the day Bryan Richardson said we were going to have a punt). Of course, at this time I was still unaware that we had sacked Thorn, I was just generally agreeing with the notion of Coventry City  being a joke (PUSB) and when he dropped the news that Thorn had been dismissed I can honestly say I wasn't surprised. Many fans have been on his back from the first few games of last season and having been relegated and then starting the new season with three draws the pressure was always going to be there.

The news he had gone was not a surprise in the slightest, not even the timing of the sacking. Conventional wisdom, or common sense, or whatever you want to call it says you either sack him at the end of the season he gets you relegated or you give him a fair crack of the whip in the next season, say ten games, to show he can turn things around. Certainly, once you have decided not to sack him at the end of the season and you have given him full backing to re-build the squad, you wouldn't expect to sack him after just three games. Add to that the transfer window about to close, preventing the new manager any chance to tweak the squad. That would be the worst option of when to dismiss him.

Although not if you are the board of Coventry City FC. When we left the Premier League we kept Strachan for a similar amount of time.

Of course Tim Fisher is right in saying things aren't right, and it has been clear to the fans for a long time that Thorn has limitations as a manager. From the purely footballing side of things I am relieved he is gone, but it still doesn't stop the anger at the timing.

Then there is the issue of the fact I actually like Thorn. I am sure he is the kind of guy that I would happily drink with down my local, he seems genuine. He did a great job as a scout for Coventry City (PUSB). He was loyal, and he guided the team through the most difficult season in our history, and probably one of the more difficult seasons of any team other than Portsmouth. So I can't help but have sympathy for him. I feel somewhere along the line the club (PUSB) has let Thorn down.

Finally there is the thorny issue (pun not intended) of who will replace him. I am happy to see Shaw and Carsley in the caretaker position. They know the players and both have history with the club (OK, both being part of the team that got us relegated from the Premier League isn't a great endorsement but history is history). But I am uncomfortable with appointing somebody with no experience as a manager. We need an experienced hand.

Gary Megson was an early favourite and I had the misfortune to see his West Bromwich Albion team on a number of occasions. To Megson I say a big no. The same can be said for Alex Mcleish. Having almost done the unenviable double of relegating Birmingham City and Aston Villa in consecutive seasons I don't see any advantage.

There are two names that we have been linked with that I would be happy with, Both are unlikely, in my opinion, for different reasons.

Andy Morrell from Wrexham would be my first choice. He is young and hungry as a manager, he hsa done well in the time he has been in charge at Wrexham and he is a former player who I felt was a little unlucky to be played out of position for most of his time with the club. I can't see us approaching him for the simple reason of compensation. Coventry City (PUSB) have well documented financial problems. Whoever we hire will need to be unemployed.

The other name I have heard is Gareth Southgate. I think he is a decent manager and a good guy. He is happy to bring youth though, he was in charge at Middlesbrough when Johnson and Bate etc.. where getting games, and he is also available on a free. But of course, his wages will be higher than most and he already has a job working with the FA and as a commentator. He also doesn't know league one, his playing and managing career have pretty much exclusively been at the top level. He is unlikely to galvanise the fans- I like him but many fans don't share that opinion, and he still has a lot to prove as a manager. But I think he would do a good job,

A lot of the reason for me favouring these two is down to the lack of competition, the vast majority of other candidates are people I really wouldn't like in charge.

And that is another reason that I have mixed feelings about Thorn going, I might not have felt he was manager material but I don't think much of most of the candidates to replace him either.

Whatever happens I wish Thorn luck wherever life takes him, he is a good guy who was not quite up to a very difficult job,

And fingers crossed the CCFC board can make an inspired (or lucky) decision when appointing the new manager.

Play Up Sky Blues!!!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Just a brief not to say I haven't forgotten you, dear blog.

I have been busy on an order beyond all reason of late, starting a new job, planning a number of short children's novels and a series for slightly older young audience. I have enrolled on a Masters programme and I am thinking on a theory of communicative power and also my own moral framework taking inspiration from the king of deontology, Immanuel Kant.

So the blog, sadly, has been neglected. But it is not forgotten. I am planning a big blog about the nature of tolerance shortly, so hopefully that will get me back into the blogging groove.

Until then, sleep tight, fair blog, and await the frog-bloggers kiss.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

First grey hair on me noggin...

First of all sorry it has been a while, work and family have kept me away from the keyboard. I did have a brief and irrational fear of keyboards but that was mere procrastination.

The big news since the last blog is this...I have developed the earliest sign of the years catching up on me, the first grey hair on my noggin (for those unfamiliar with this particular colloquialism it means head). The lone white beast that stands out in the deep brown fields of my chest hair is not a sign of age, instead he is a valiant warrior standing proud. And the pedantic amongst you may say that the advancing armies of silver in my beard are technically noggin hairs. To you I say, "pish and posh, you are quibbling over nothings, my good man" (pedant's of the facial hair world are always men, an indisputable fact that cannot be disputed. My personal favourite kind of indisputable fact).

But now, this past Tuesday the 3rd July in the Year 2012 on the Gregorian calender at approximately 7 of the evening clock, while sitting in my car awaiting chips and sausage from my local chippie, while glancing casually in the rear view mirror to see my delightfully youthful visage disaster struck. Upon the left hand side of the aforementioned noggin, two inches above my ear I spotted a flash of blinding light reflecting back into the mirror. Several moments of fearful examination revealed the indisputable fact that it is my first grey hair (the others don't count because they aren't on my noggin, technicalities, see...)

'Tis my 14th straight 21st birthday tomorrow and with the onset of the terrible blight that is hair fade I may have to make plans for next years birthday to be my 22nd.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Penalties...

The only thing England need to learn about taking penalties is you need a big pair of bollocks.

Compare Youngs penalty to Pirlo's? Young hit it harder and in a straighter line. Yet even as they stood to take them I knew Young would miss and Pirlo would score. Why? Because Pirlo looked confident and Young looked like he was afraid of Andy Carroll's reaction if he missed.

It is the same confidence that lets the Italians retain possession. There players aren't better than ours, but they aren't full of fear. When you are full of fear the space looks smaller and you fall deeper and deeper and create the problems that you imagine will happen. We managed to put fear into the Italians in the first 20 minutes but after Pirlo came into the game it calmed them down and we started panicking.

So come on England, everybody says you played with heart but now you need to play with bollocks as well.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Slow down, get a job...

Not much been going on, other than me starting a new full-time (spit) job, working for somebody else.

After a few years being self employed the discipline of doing what I am told is now something I am having to re-learn, but it is nice having a guaranteed pay check at the end of the week. In these times of fiscal uncertainty it is a decision I had to make for my family, who deserve security, ahead of my own interests. That isn't to say I don't intend to carry on trying to sell my creativity, it is just going to occupy less of my time for the next few months.

So I would like to apologise for the slowing down of the blog. I will be writing more regularly again soon, and maybe even on topics people want to read about. But until then I humbly beg for patience from the people who have taken the time to read my humble words.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Hodgsons Army

Sorry, but this is another football blog (albeit my first in a while).

I had the joy of watching 70 minutes of England vs France yesterday and to all those who have doubted the appointment of Hodgson as England manager I put to you this performance proves he is the right man for the job.

Before the tournament people have written England off, and with good reason. A change of manager with only two friendly matches to prepare, Rooney missing for two matches, a host of injuries including Lampard and Barry, two players with a more than reasonable claim to be in the centre of Midfield and let us not forget the existence of John Terry. Oh, how I try to forget the existence of John Terry, the ultimate embarrassment to being English.

Yet watching against the French the England team displayed something they have rarely displayed for most of the last 20 year. Heart. England have always been known as a passionate, committed team and this has made up for our technical weakness against countries which have a more cultured or tactically aware football mentality. Yet since Venables in 1996, other than a brief period under Keegan where he displayed that heart wasn't everything, we have been trying to emulate other European nations in our mentality. Keeping the ball, trying to defend one goal leads, being timid when the game is crying out for courage.

Against the French we showed an awful lot of heart and defensive discipline and organisation. Yes, we fell back into the bad habit of defending deeper and deeper when we had a lead to protect, but other than that 10 minute patch at the end of the first half we looked like a team that could defend all day. The organisation is astounding when you consider that for most of the previous 12 years we had managers who had received their footballing educations in Italy, home of defensive organisation, and we had never looked capable of defending a lead during that time. But it was the return of English heart that was the most wonderful to behold.

Let us not forget that France have now not lost for 22 games, a phenomenal run in international football, and are on form one of the best teams in world football, yet for 90 minutes we matched them and deserved our point. More than that we had several chances to take all 3 points. OK, there were a few scares, but that is something we have to expect from a team with the attacking options of France.

Nobody is yet saying that England are among the favourites for this tournament, but if England can keep showing the never-say-die trenches spirit and add just a little bit more quality going forward then we can at least look forward to leaving the tournament with our heads held high rather than leaving in ignominy and shame.

And looking forward, when Hodgson has the chance to shape his own team, things have a slightly more positive taste than they have for many years.

 Goodbye Golden Generation, hello hope.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Responsible parenting.

There are times when being a responsible parent leaves little to be desired.

While you have to admire the sheer self-centredness of people like the 19 year old who was so upset that her partner was arrested for drunk driving with her baby in the car she got stoned then drove home at midnight, forgetting her baby was strapped into his travel seat on TOP of the car. All credit to her, she noticed the baby was missing when she got home. The jubilee weekend will see pubs across the country welcoming families to join in the festivities. A small number of these families will get totally drunk and will lose forget about their children, other than maybe grabbing a couple of packets of crisps for them to keep them quiet. They will enjoy the weekend.

It was difficult to keep keep these in mind today when I found myself at a pelican crossing in torrential rain. Ever since he has been old enough to walk I have been showing him that you press the button and wait for the green man before you cross. We got caught out today in the rain. It was only a 5 minute walk to the shop so, while my son was in full rain gear including hood, cap and brolly, I was in a thin jacket and hoody. The rain, rather predictably, started when we were half way to the store. By the time we got to the crossing I was soaked, cold and miserable, and my three year old rain excitedly to press the button to cross the road.

There was not a single car in site, there hadn't been all the way up the road. Most people were too sensible to be out in the weather, or if they had ventured out they were in a pub getting drunk with their loved ones. It was sorely tempting to cross the road with him and ignore what I had taught him. It was easy to think about all the drunk families who, in all likelihood, would suffer no ill consequences from their irresponsibility, other than years from now the probability their children will be emulating them.

With these thoughts I looked at him and the temptation went away. I might be teaching him how to cross a road, but being a parent teaches me anew about responsibility everyday.

He didn't choose to come into this world, and the unwritten contract parents sign is to love, protect and nurture our children. Getting rained on is a small price to pay to help him grow up the right way.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Emptying the Cookie jar...

Have you ever had a repeat visit to a website after months away and been delighted that they remember your name? A wonderful level of customer service that high st stores just don't match anymore; a delightful return to the glory days of the Grace Brothers. There may even be a little strip of side adverts which are the not-so-subtle equivalent of Mrs Slocombes pussy.

Have you visited a shopping site and been amazed that they are recommending the things that you like to buy before you have even logged in? What wonders of prescience the internet brings with it. Why bother with the hassle of travelling to a shop when the internet not only is polite but also saves you all that bothersome browsing by showing you exactly what you want before it even knows you are there?

Have you ever noticed that the adverts at the side of the page often match your interests nearly exactly (people often don't want to realise this, especially when you are repeatedly being offered what turns out to be Russian brides and Discreet Hook-ups- but these are your interests, whether you like it or not).

Well all of that may be about to change due to new EU rules which govern the use of cookies. The laws relate to established data protection laws and, while initially they will not be punishing offending websites, they will have the power to issue fines.

At this point I many of you will be saying why the fuss? I like cookies, they go great with my morning tea. You may also be aware that occasionally you need to clean the cookies from your computer but most people aren't aware why and that is the crux of the new law.

The assumption when you visit a website is that they have remembered you, so when you return they are simply acting like a greeter at a traditional store where you are a regular. Alas, this isn't the case. A cookie is a small file that they store on YOUR hard drive, it takes up almost no space so isn't really noticed, but on this file they store your name, buying history etc... they may also acquire other information about you which is stored for future use. It is common for them to store your login details on them, so when you next visit the site your computer automatically logs you in and enhances the whole internet experience by meaning you don't need to go to all the bothersome trouble of typing a user name, which may be as long as your WHOLE  e-mail address, and a password which those nefarious bastards often insist includes the confusing mix of numbers and letters. Numbers and letters. In one password. The Bastards.

Of course it is no big deal, right? They are not inconveniencing us and the amount of date stored on your hard drive is like a drop in the ocean on modern multi gigabyte drives. But the fact remains they are using your property to store something without your consent. What would you say if your local builders merchant stored a few pallets of bricks at the bottom of your garden without your consent? It wouldn't really inconvenience most of us, to whom the bottom of the garden is visited as briefly as is required by the lawn-mower and as infrequently as our better halves let us get away with. But you still would not allow it. Of course if they asked you and you thought about the amount of grass two pallets of bricks would cover you might allow it. You might even think it was in your best interests.

Cookies make our lives easier in many ways. And if informed people agree to them then, of course, there is no issue. Previously the fact that the information was stored on your own property was seen as enough to escape the data protection laws. The nice shopping websites forgot about you the moment you left (apart from information gathered for marketing reasons, but usually that was anonymous and who cares provided next time you visit they know you like Jam so they can offer you five different types without you having to click through those two or three links to get there) and in that they are exactly like the Grace Brothers of old; they only remember you when they want to sell you something.

Some cookies are insidious and continue to store information about you after you leave a site-these are commonly covered by anti-spyware software but these things are not fullproof and not everybody has an effective one installed on their computer. So if you want that, ahem, fact-finding search into Thai ladyboys, or whether it is safe to give yourself a caffiene enema, to stay secret from the rest of the web cookies may not be your friend after all.

Most cookies are harmless and exist to enhance your web experience (indulge you idleness). The new laws don't prevent the websites from using your computer to track you, but they do insist you are informed about it. They have to tell you what will be stored and you will have the option to say no.  This will usually take place by way of a pop-up box with a box to tick. One more chore I know, but it is one that can protect you from unwanted intrusions

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Why I think Britain should leave the EU


Following a delightful blog by @fleetstreetfox yesterday I got into some debate about my belief that the UK should pull out of the EU to effectively wipe out the worst excesses of the budget deficit with no need for the horrible austerity measures we are enduring. Many people argue that we cannot be sure it would save money and that it would be detrimental to UK business for us to pull out. They also raise issues such as the common agricultural policy (CAP), the European Humans Rights legislation and increased political clout that a United Europe offers when dealing with global issues. I hope to answer many of the points raised by the pro-Europe brigade.

In 2009 Matthew Elliot and David Craig published “The Great European Rip-off” in which they claimed membership of the EU was costing Britain £118 BILLION a year. Elliott and Craig are members of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, an independent pressure group with libertarian ideals, and their research represents probably the worst case scenario of what the EU costs us as a country.

 The official figure for what we pay into the EU a year since Tony Blair gave up much of the hard won rebate is we are losing around £6.5billion a year after the official costs and returned grants are taken into account. This doesn’t take into account figures such as the increased costs of bureaucracy in Whitehall or the loss of jobs from policies such as the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The reality is nobody know exactly how much it is costing but it is somewhere between the two figures I have mentioned, and in all probability somewhere closer to the figure proposed by Elliot and Craig. Civitas is July 2004 believed the cost to be between £17billion and £40billion a year and the figures will only have increase since then.

For the fiscal year 2009/10 the official UK budget deficit was £156billion (BBC News, online, 21st May 2010). The current austerity programme which is causing so much pain around the UK as so far reduced the budget deficit to £126billion (Guardian, Online, 24th April 2012). The current forecasts are for a deficit somewhere in the region of £80billion by the end of this parliament. That is if the economy slowly starts to recover as the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts (BBC News, online, 29th November 2011).


If Elliott and Craig are correct then just pulling out of the EU will give us a budget surplus much earlier than expected. Or, and this I believe is the sensible option, allow us to significantly reduce the deficit and allow the government to use some of the savings for fiscal stimulus, most importantly by preserving the NHS and Education budgets and by providing money for infrastructure projects. Even if, as I suspect, they are wrong by 50% then the saving is still going to be significant enough to allow for the austerity measures to be eased and some fiscal stimuli to be put into place.

 In terms of national finances then it seems to be perfectly clear that pulling out of the EU is the logical thing to do. The counter argument to this is that the Eurozone allows us to trade between member states without cumbersome import duties this making trade easier and more likely. I intend to answer this in using two points.

 The first is the UK has a huge import/export loss to the EU member states. We import far more than we export. This means if import duties are raised the tax revenue will increase and any money the government raises from this could be used to offset the additional costs, which are typically only around 1.5 %( Civitas, July 2004). Although as the UK has free trade agreements with a number of countries it is highly unlikely we wouldn’t be able to come to a similar agreement with the EU. As I said, they sell more to us than we do to them so it benefits them to keep free trade in place. Additionally the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would prevent the EU from imposing any trade penalties on us. Free trade is the goal of the WTO and the EU.

 The second is that there is not a single piece of research anywhere that suggests the EU trade agreements bring in anywhere near what the EU costs. Even the EU’s own forecasts believe the trade benefits account for less than a third of the cost of the EU administration (Telegraph, online, May 2012). Many countries, including France, have conducted research that suggest there is no benefit. So with nobody able to confirm the EU brings financial benefits and a number of sources of various reliability able to demonstrate there is enormous cost I think it is safe to say that the financial savings would be huge.

 The policies such as the CAP and CFP which have meant there is always a generous supply of food throughout Europe have actually cost the UK. The fishing trade has suffered with the quotas meaning nearly a million dead fish a year are thrown back to avoid financial polices from over fishing- of course they cannot stop the nets from catching the fish so it leads to waste and the amount of fish being caught remaining largely unchanged. The agricultural policy costs the UK over £4 billion a year (Elliot and Craig, 2009) and ensures that many British fields are left fallow. So these polices do nothing to support the idea of remaining in Europe.

 The human rights act is something we have ourselves. The Human Rights Act of 1998 has been part of law for well over a decade and our own legal experts are capable enough of interpreting the laws without guidance from Europe.

 That leaves the final point of increased global influence. There are many arguments against this but I am going to limit myself to just two. The first, which is largely one of opinion, is that I am not convinced that the EU has greater influence than the separate member states. Even with a united Europe there are still over influential institutions such as the WTO, NATO, The United Nations, the IMF etc… The influence of Europe still falls short of these and the failure of the separate member states of the EU to agree on policy prevents the EU from having an effective voice.

 For the second I will assume that the EU does have increased influence. My argument against it is that it is at the cost of sovereignty and democracy. The EU has consistently sought to remove the decision making process away from the member states to Brussels. This is something that the British people have long opposed and that previous governments, and it looks likely this one is going to join them, have reneged about giving us a referendum on.

 In addition to this the EU is not democratic. The leaders of the EU are the President of the European Council, currently the little known (in the UK at least) Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission, the equally unknown within the UK President Barroso who share the responsibility of leading the EU in separate ill-defined roles. What is clear, though, is that they are voted for by the European Council. Not by the public, but by a select group of individuals who have been voted for largely in the UK largely as protest votes against what is seen as the legitimate government. Neither of these are answerable to the MEP’s, although the latter does have to be aware s MEP’s have the right of veto.

 It is the lack of democracy that robs the EU of the legitimate authority to represent Europe. Power without responsibility is a phrase used to describe the huge influence that media magnates possess without being held responsible to an electorate. The EU is in the same situation, but it presents itself almost as a legitimate state and it is clear that some members of the EU see a US of E as the natural progression for Europe.

 It is for these reasons, amongst others, that I believe the UK should withdraw from the EU. Or at the very least take advantage of the current situation to renegotiate the current deal to bring better value to the citizens of the UK.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Little league pool.

I am a keen amateur pool player, with amateur being the key word.

My preferred game in the traditional pub 8-ball. The object of the game, for those not in the know, is to pot your 7 coloured balls and then  pot the black "8" ball. Sounds simple and when you watch the really good it looks simple too.

Last night I played my second match since rejoining my old team after a two year hiatus. My first had ended in a deciding frame defeat against one of the leagues better players. I, perhaps, should explain that the team experience is different. No player can play more than one "end" or frame and the captains have to pick players end by end out of the squad available. It is a best of seven match, although dead ends are played due to frame difference in the league. So my first frame back was in an away match playing with the scores at three each. I acquitted myself well but lost on a black ball game.

So yestereve I was selected again. It was a cup match and we were three-two down, our captain had one the frame before me to bring us back into the match from three-one down.

So here I was, once again put into the high pressure frame against a good, solid player. I remember I potted the first ball and went onto yellows but I ran out of position. What followed was one of the most intense, gruelling and ultimately enjoyable half hours I can remember. I had forgot the shear joy to be had when playing under intense pressure (I know it is only pub league but when you have 15-20 people watching with a vested interest in the result it is pressure), of trying to outwit, out skill and out psych your opponent. Too many players think pool is all about potting, and obviously that is important, but preventing your opponent from playing and forcing them into risky shots or to clear a pocket they don't want to is part of the game too. An important one when you are playing in the highest tier of your local leagues three tier system, I assure you.

The match, ultimately, was going to be decided by my frame. Although it was only the sixth end my opponents team only had six players. If I lost they won four-three and if I won we won by the same score. After the match I was shaking as the adrenaline finally had chance to take over.

And next Sunday we are in the drawer for the next round.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Man flu

There is much mirth about man flu. So many mock this terrible ailment, but it is the single biggest killer of quality time in the UK.

I am suffering from man flu at the moment. For four days I have been barely able to breath, I have had an headache that feels like a race of brain-dwellers are using excavation to decide if there is more to life than relaying electrical impulses requesting chicken soup. During their rest periods the bang-bang-bang is replaced by a general ache that covers several of my most favoured lobes and tells them that any movement will result in a return of the excavators.

My body is aching. Many wonderful people took part in the moonwalk last night. I was unable to join them by way of being a man, and 130 miles away. But this morning my body has decided to be in sympathy for them. Which it has also preemptively done for the last three days.

Light is very much on the side of the excavators. Every ray of sunshine, and thankfully these are rare in Birmingham, is met by renewed vigour by the excavators and the chorus of supporters they have banging drums in previously quiet sockets. The excavators have also decided that the best place to put all the brain meat they are digging out is in my ears. I imagine them surreptitiously dropping small chunks of my grey matter down their trouser legs hoping the guards, my sorely underfunded white blood cells, don't notice. The net result is I can't hear anything.

We won't talk about the sinus.

And the only known cure for this terrible ailment is plenty of sympathy coupled with regular, nay frequent, cups of hot chicken soup.

Yet women, the only people immune to the plague of man flu (the clue is in the name) walk around laughing at us and treating our despairing murmurs begging for assistance with disdain. If they do offer sympathy it soon becomes evident that it is sarcastic and it is purely another ruse to make us get back to the list of chores that always seems to be three times as long during these times of distress.

Men everywhere are suffering and we cannot do chores while craving chicken soup.

So please, please, woman of the world. When you see a man with man flu give him sympathy, ply him with chicken soup and if you could be so kind as to leave the football on that would be super.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

BGT

Is pretty awful.

The acts, other than the baritone kid, are pretty much the kind of thing I expect to see outside the Bullring on a hot summers day.

I think that is all I can say about BGT without risking my spleen exploding.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Battleship

Before I watched this I was of the opinion it would either be awesome or awful. One aw or the other.

Having watched it I am still not sure which aw it is.

On pure face value it is a cliched, formulaic self-discovery quest typical of many Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters. The main protagonist is the loser brother of one of the Navy's top young guns who falls in love with the Admirals daughter. The enemy are an advance fleet for an all out Alien invasion. There are science nerds. The girl is a pretty blond. The fate of the earth is in the balance etc, etc... You know the drill by now.

Having to turn a popular board whereby you fire at grid references to destroy ships you can't see must have provided a problem for the writers, given that we all know the modern navy has radar, sonic detection devices and cameras that could spot a pimple on your ass from a thousand clicks. They get around this by using the power of sci-fi. The alien ships are made from a material we cannot detect (they don't explain how NASA were able to pick them up on approach, but I am sure we aren't supposed to think about that) and there communications ship crashes into a satellite before entry to our atmosphere and so the aliens need to communicate with their home planet. They erect an impregnable dome, a force field,over a fairly large part of the pacific including an island that has the satellite relay dishes they require to communicate with home. By lucky happenstance three destroyer clash warships, including our protagonists, are caught inside the dome. The writers' here have done a very good job of creating a plausible story line for the battleship scenario. And the wonderful scene where they are using water displacement from sensors in buoys is a really nice touch for those who wanted a bit of game-style nostalgia (an important lesson learnt from the lamentable film Doom, where the only redeeming feature was the five minutes is was filmed in the first person game mode).

The acting is a little wooded. Liam Neeson is Liam Neeson, he brings a certain gravity to everything he does and he is a good choice for a field active admiral.  Alexander Skarsgard (Erik from True Blood) is the older brother and, while he is clearly portraying a deeply ingrained military man, he is an actor who exudes charm just by being on screen. Rihanna is managed well. She is obviously not an actor, but they give her plenty of short lines and nothing too challenging so she manages to pull of the slightly sassy petty officer role that the film demands. Taylor Kitsch is the only major disappointment. He manages to play the disastrous messed up brother convincingly but as soon as he is thrust into a position of authority he fails to convince. I imagine we will be seeing more of him in comic roles but I think he was found wanting when he tried to stretch the acting muscles further.

Their are two other mini-quests of self-discovery featuring the comic scientist (who does bring moments of genuine humour) and the bad-ass army commander who lost his legs. The latter is genuinely bad ass. Their quests help to hold the story together and the writers' rightly realised that just the battle out to sea would probably not be enough to keep the audience invested in the film.

The effects are superb, but that is no more than we expect now from the heavily CGI'd Hollywood effects conveyor belt.

I have said before I don't do spoilers so I won't say anymore about the plot.

To conclude the film shouldn't work because it relies so heavily on cliche and formula to work, even with the original and brilliant idea's of how to make the game work as a film that the writers' bought in. But somehow it does work. There are periods of genuine humour and some touching tragedy (although visually it is overdone in favour of melodrama).

I have to say it is neither of the aws. It falls somewhere in between. It is a good action movie which has enough humour to show us it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bloated

I have ate too much today.

I am a little like Baby from Dirty Dancing in that I don't like food to go to waste. The difference is rather than getting somebody to pretend to send it to Africa I eat it all myself. It makes me thankful that I am not contributing to the terrible piles of food that is wasted every year while at the same time I get full of  terrible guilt at the methane I am contributing to global warming. If they could find a way to harness me after Sunday lunch they could probably turn of the national grid for the rest of the day.

Another downside is the ever expanding waistline. Occasionally I am lucky that everybody in my house eats all their food and I can lose a few pounds. I never eat breakfast now safe in the knowledge that I'll get half a bowl of porridge from my youngest son and a full cup of coffee that my partner. I try to trick myself that I am somehow doing something for the environment by not cooking for myself.

The reality is the new wardrobe I have to purchase every time my belt goes up a notch is starting to require a months cotton output from Uzbekistan. The shipping costs of the materials (not to mention the ethical implications of the children taken out of school to pick the cotton) combined with the power of all the mills that produce it plus the shops that sell it and finally the recycling costs of the clothes I am discarding mean it is at the very best a truly awful environmental trade off.

I am afraid I am just a bloated representative of the bloated western world. I am fully committed to environmental and ethical causes until they require me to actually do something.

I do not support all the activists in the world, many I think are misguided, but I admire all of them for actually getting off their arses and doing something about the things they are impassioned about.

But I'm afraid my son has just left half a bowl of angel delight, so it is back to bloat for me.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Mobile phones...

Me and my partner have been sharing my phone for the last few months since she broke her old one. It has led to many tensions, not least because, when it boils down to it, I , that is me, would much rather walk down the street naked with a monkey hanging off my tallywhacker than leave the house without my phone.

When did this happen to me? I remember when I first got a PAYG phone, it was one of the very first before the mobile boom and was the size of a small sedan, I only had it to keep in touch with my friends because I was such a party person I was usually found in a pub (I could have just given them the number to the Vine on the local high st because I always ended back there at some point). Even though the average call cost more than a mid-sized countries GDP I managed to get away with only topping up about £10 every 3 months- that's how loath I was to make calls. I wasn't even aware of the SMS feature and getting a game of Snake  was the kind of dream that must have inspired Brunel or Edison.

Gradually I have become indoctrinated to the idea that access to everybody I have ever met, no matter how briefly, at the touch of a button is essential. New Year I send over 200 texts to go with the traditional calls, kisses and facebook wall posts. This year I am on Twitter and I am hoping it enables me to do all my new year wishes at one point. Which will be done from my phone in my local pub (still The Vine) in all probability.

My house now has at least 6 different ways of accessing the internet and I didn't have the courage to check the toaster or the fridge to see what they could do.  I'm not even sure how the HD+ box works and where it finds so many hours of terrible television from. But I know I feel it is somehow essential.

I am petrified that if I don't have permanent total access to the world around me that somehow I might miss something.

It is time to make a stand against this digital invasion.

So today I took the decision to get my partner a new phone to finally allow me to leave the house feeling complete. Thank heaven for the "where's my pants" app.

Friday, 4 May 2012

RIP Adam Yauch.

I was lucky enough to see The Beastie Boys live on the Ill Communication tour. I think it was in 1994 at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. The entire band were awesome.

For a young whippersnapper who was very much into his hard rock/metal (the other gig I remember most about that time was Therapy?) it was strange going to see a hip hop band. The energy and vibe of the band was on another planet. I remember sweating my arse off as I moshed, if mosh is the right word at a hip hop gig, to the classics of the time. Sabotage, Sure Shot and Fight For Your Right To...Party were all anthems to the crowd. Then me and my buddy Ant left the arena about 11pm to find that about a foot of snow had fallen while we were in the gig and all the public transport had been cancelled. Many hours of wandering Wolverhampton in the snow in our thin tops followed. I remember we decided it was wise to have a snow ball fight near Beatties and managed to set off the over sensitive alarms of the nearby windows.

We probably could have froze to death waiting for my dad to drive the 13 miles to pick us up.

And it would have been worth it. To this day they are one of the best live performances I have seen. Technically not as gifted as some of the others but the sheer energy of the performance was contagious.  The bass line of Sabotage was the trigger for a ridiculous frenzy, and it is that bass line that serves in my mind as the best obituary to Adam 'MCA' Yauch.

His contributions to music in bringing hip hop to the main stream (we will ignore how superficial much of the modern stuff is) and in creating the hard core sound that reinvented the band in the 90's mean he will always be a legend. It is fitting that the Beastie Boys were admitted into the Hall of Fame before he passed away.

Sabotage

RIP Adam.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Having a day off...


...everything today except writing. Or so I thought.

Instead the other half decided today was the day we start revamping the place. OK, it is certainly something that needed doing and something we had been putting off since shortly before the last T-Rex departed the midlands. But why today?

The answer is simple. Because she knew I had cleared my schedule to allow me an unfettered run at completing some creative work for the first time in mortal memory. It is rumoured I finished writing something in before Easter but I can assure everybody that if I did I don't recall it. Indeed since Christmas my idea book is getting fuller all the time but my completed folder has been getting more cob-webbed by the day.

Creative writing is something I love and something I try to do every day. I don't care what I am writing most days-short fiction, poetry, the first chapter of my novel (I have two different novels and each must be approaching half a dozen first chapters now but are the second chapters are nothing but pages of hollow silence), a script or even just some stream of consciousness nonsense. Not that stream of consciousness writing is always nonsense-only when I attempt it. It is like Charlie Chaplin has mated with the Marx brothers and taken some particularly strong acid.

After nine long hours the place is now starting to look like a lounge again so I am off to finish some writing- just as soon as I have started it.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Remember the TV series The Invaders?

Watch this link. It is a public information video about the dangers of homosexuals. I shit you not.

Watching it I couldn't help but think of the old sci-fi programme the invaders. For those of you that don't remember it it was about a group of aliens amongst us who where hell bent on the destruction of human civilisation but who were indistinguishable from us apart from the little finger on their right hand which was stuck permanently out. Once again I shit you not.

Remember The Invaders?

The implication that homosexuals are an insidious problem indistinguishable from normal humans apart from their desire to form quick attachments is every bit as ludicrous as the aliens with dodgy little fingers.

OK, this video was broadcast a long time ago and things have moved along way since then. Hopefully something like this would never be filmed again, but I read recently that people are once again seeking medical treatment as a "cure" for homosexuality. That is a symptom not of being homosexual, there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, but of societies inability to accept homosexuality. I worry about the urge to be tolerant about homosexuals and people from other cultural backgrounds. The use of the word 'tolerance' implies significant difference. It implies that people are different in important and fundamental ways. There is NO significant difference between heterosexual and homosexuals. None.

I hope people laugh at this video because in the modern world it is genuinely funny. But it is also scary that only 50 or 60 years ago governments thought this a video like this was needed and it is important that the journey towards informed enlightenment continues.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Hunger Games...

I watched the film recently and it was superb. A dark-future tale which was terrifying, gripping and moving.

Usually I read the books before I watch the film. There have been a few exceptions to this, times when a film as been so inspiring that I felt compelled to seek out the book. Harry Potter was one. No Country for Old Men another; I have to thank the film for encouraging me to read the wonderful work of Cormac McCarthy. Universally I have found the book to be better than the film- deeper, richer a more filling and satisfying dish.

Hunger Games is no exception. Stephen King apparently said of the Hunger Games that it is very good  but lacks maturity in parts. I agree (it's hard not to agree with King about literature) but I think the lack of maturity is acceptable because the narrative is in the first person of Katniss and she is a young girl with very limited world-experience. Have the narrative voice be most first person and naive allows us to see the world through Katniss's eyes yet at the same time recognise the difficulties she is making for herself in the wider context of the political landscape in panem,

I don't do spoilers so I won't be going into any more detail about the plot than that.

The characters are a little bit hit and miss. Haymitch and Katniss are wonderful on the heroes side. The grotesque pictures of the citizens of the capitol are disturbingly grotesques. I see them all as being people direct from Jean-Paul Gauliers' damaged imagination. The exception being Cinna who has a degree of humanity not afforded to the others. Effie is the least satisfying character, especially early on, as she is routinely exposed to the hardships of the districts yet keeps the capitol superficiality. Peeta is too good to be true in the world they find themselves in. The rationale that he always had food isn't enough for him to have risen that far above the rest morally.

President Snow is the most interesting character. He is as menacing as an literary character in recent years. His ability to menace and charm at the same time is a delight.

I think everybody should read the hunger games. They read a little like Harry Potter with teeth,

Monday, 30 April 2012

Sorry, more football...

Well done tonight to the pretend skyblues (they don't deserve the capital that Coventry get).

A superb and well disciplined performance against Man Utd and Fergie can have no complaints. Apart from about ten minutes in the middle of the second half his boys just didn't turn up.

Zabaleta was the M.o.M in my opinion. He worked tirelessly for the team and provided quality down the right flank. Yaya would have got it if he hadn't lost his discipline in the last twenty-five minutes.

The title still isn't decided yet. Meaning no disrespect to the other teams the Manchester teams have got to face I feel the title will be decided in the North East. Either Newcastle or Sunderland will get a result that will create a points gap. If they don't then we get the first Premier title decided on goal difference. If I am honest I think that would be a shame because Man City have been the better team for much of the season, this Man Utd team is living too much on reputation and following the news that Podolski is joining Arsenal Fergie needs to realise that his Utd team need two world-class midfielders and a striker if they want to stay at the top end of the Premier division for the next few years.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

I'm alive...

Just a brief post today to remind myself I am alive. I have been told that breaks in blogging are frowned upon by the huge judgemental members of the public that make up the mass audience. I'm not sure they have noticed me yet, as 5 blogs have created a total of 97 page visits.

Maybe that should be the nature of my next blog...what constitutes mass?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Holidays wear me out...

So this is the first morning after my time in exotic Wales. In all honesty I can't remember when I have been this tired.

I have drove over 500 miles, chased a 3 year old super dynamo up and down hills, around lakes and beaches (in his words the quiet beach isn't as nice as the noisy beach, the only difference I could see is it was windy the day we went to the noisy beach so the waves were crashing a bit), up mountains and, most terrifying of all, around arcades. So many pretty lights for a 3 year old to be distracted by.

I bay slept, except for Thursday when the other half graciously allowed me an extra hour in bed, and I have spent a bleedin' fortune.

My little boy also proved to have an unerring ability to make me man-up and get over my debilitating fear of heights. I call it fear of heights but I have vertigo and it isn't heights I am scared of, it is the immense dizziness and nausea that overcome me when I am high up. Sometimes standing on a chair is enough to set it off, and there is nothing more pitiful than seeing a six foot man clinging onto a wall for dear life when he is standing on a one foot stool.  While we were in Caernarfon we went to the fun factory; if you go to Caernarfon you will know the one to which I refer as it is on all the tourist information boards. It occupies a beautiful old stone church, a larger version of the variety that are speckled all around North Wales and are always what I think a church should look like.

In the fun factory are two tall slides which are almost vertical. My son, the brave little trooper, really wanted to a have a go on the one that slowed you down by the old fashioned technique of dumping you straight into a ball pit. Of course, while he is big for a lad who turned 3 last monday, he isn't really big enough to be dropped 30ft down a vertical slide into a ball pit. This didn't deter him for he came up with a plan. "Daddy" he began, "you're my best friend"  he knows how to turn on the charm, "can I go down on your lap". What kind of man would I be if I said no.  A sensible one a large part of me was saying, but the dad in me won out.

So we went up the long flight of stairs, Kian almost a sprint and me gingerly feeling out every step. At the top I bravely enquired if he was sure he wanted to go down the slide. "Yes, Daddy, on your lap" he replied. I grabbed hold of the side netting that seperated another part of the play area from the slide and swung my right leg over and shuffled my bum across until I was sure by ample buttocks were acting as an effective wedge. I once again bravely enquired if he wanted to go down the slide and once again he replied to the affirmative, this time bouncing up and down excitedly to show his determination to make me go down. My head was spinning everywhere and every movement bought a wave of nausea and eternal dread that seemed to smother every part of my body. My breathing was shallow and sweat was coming out of my hair. But the problem with having a 3 year old who worships you is the fear of letting him down outweighs everything else. I managed, somehow, to scoop him onto my lap and wrap my left arm around him. My right hand was still firmly gripping the netting to the sode of the slide, my lifeline to the sanity of soilidity. Kian was nervous now, and I could have used that as an excuse to get out of it, but I had commited. I swung my left leg over so I was now sitting right on the edge. I took my hand from my lifeline and we counted...one...two...three...and off we slid before moments later we were crashing into the balls at the bottom.

Kian loved it. I couldn't stop him laughing enough to get him out of the ball pit, and needless to say we had to go on the slide three more times. I wish I could say it got easier for me, but it didn't. Each time was a battle and each time it was worth it to see the smile on my face.

As a family we had a fantastic time,

Friday, 27 April 2012

I'm back from the hinterland...

Just a quick blog to say I have just got back from the ferocious mountains of North Wales.

Worry not for I survived with nothing more than a damp head, and a certain squelch about the forward step.

I will be back to serious blogging from the morrow, for it is 10.30 of the evening clock and I am far too pooped for entertaining, or even not so entertaining, blogging.

Till the morrow,
farewell.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

League One for a year...

Before I start this isn't a football blog.

It just so happens that in the first few days of it's existence two football related topics have caught my eye.

So, here it is. I am a Coventry City fan. The Sky Blues (not the Citizens, who are doing rather well for themselves) have been my team since as a child, just before the glory of 1987, circumstances led me to them at a time when Liverpool, Notts Forest and Everton were all courting my interest by being successful, or in the case of Forest having Cloughie. It is a long tale which has led to me choosing Coventry and one I won't bore you it with here. Maybe at a later date, when today's pain has left me it will be the subject of a blog.

I ended up supporting the mighty (in my head they are always led by Sillett and Curtis around the pitch at Wembley) Sky Blues and my experiences following them have always helped me to cope with defeat and disappointment. OK, not in 1987. But I was 8 years old and that was the highest point for me as a Coventry fan. And OK, big fat (racist?) Ron bought it some great players in the mid-nineties. And OK, we then had the Huckerby-Dublin partnership, and Ndlovu and a few others. But these have all been exceptions which have bred false hope. My time as a Coventry fan has been most honest when I have been accepting of inevitable defeat. Not only has it been more honest, but it has also led to my happiest memories...the great escape of 1997 was so wonderful because I was so sure we were down. I remember going to play football after the results were in and NOT being embarrassed to wear the shirt in an area where everybody else supported WBA and Wolves and, at this time, the black country hadn't had a team in the top flight for 15 years and we, Coventry, hadn't had a team out of the top flight in 30 years.

Today, as the football fans amongst you know, the brave Coventry City finally got relegated not from the Premiership, the promised land is now a distant memory, but from the Championship. Next season, if we reach next season, we will be in Npower League One. We went down without a fight, losing two nil at home against a team that had went eleven games without a win. Not even Pompey losing 10 points through administration gave us a chance.

The worst part of the season hasn't been the relegation, nor the lack of depth or quality in the squad. Nor the lack of fight for the most part. Not even seeing the business man chairman decide to become technical director and join the beleaguered, often confused, manager Andy Thorn on the bench. The worst part has been the brief period of hope we were afforded when we managed to, for one round of matches, get out of the relegation zone.

It was the reverse of all the years when we, as fans, had given up and then a miracle happened. This time we had been mocked with the sweet scent of survival, only to have it cruelly taken from us by a group of players who either weren't good enough, weren't experienced enough or, most terrible, just didn't have the heart for the battle.

I feel betrayed, not by the  relegation, but by the club daring to give us hope before stamping it out.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Ched Evans

I don't want to get into whether Ched Evans or Clayton McDonald are guilty or innocent. I haven't been made privy to all the details of the case.

What I want to say is surely in a case like this they are either both guilty, or both innocent. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no doubt that she consented. Evans has found guilty based on the fact she was too drunk to give consent. She had sex with both men and says she didn't remember meeting them or going back to the hotel with them. If that is the case why was she sober enough to consent with CM, but not with CE. Did she stop part way through to down half a bottle of gin before inviting CE to join in?

This highlights, to me, the problem with many rape cases. There is no consistency in rulings or investigations. There are too many cases where somebody is accused of rape wrongly, or alternately somebody is cleared wrongly due to fear that the claim is believed to be false. Punishments are inconsistent and there usually is no punishment women who make false claims. I have read of one case when a woman was convicted of perverting the course of justice, although I am sure there are more. The problem, though, is false claims are damaging to all the cases of women who are genuine. Fear of being accused of crying wolf stops some women coming forward, and even once the police and courts are involved it serves to damage the credibility of all rape victims. They have done nothing wrong; they are victims, yet they are often treated as the criminals.

I don't have answers, it is not an area I am expert in and most of what I know is purely anecdotal. But I think it is clear that something needs to be done to create consistency.

If the courts cannot get a consistent verdict in one case that was heard simultaneously how can they be trusted to provide justice?

Breaking in the blog.

This is my first ever blog.

I am a keen and opinionated writer who has for a long time been amazed at the wonderful depth and talent (and the occasional slimy dirge) of blog writers and it has made me a little timid to dip my slightly grubby toes into the waters of the blogsphere.

I am afraid I have no specific aims for this blog other than to write. So those who crave consistency look away now. I intend to write about my thoughts, my experiences, the news, what I have watched, read or consumed. Anything that seems to me to be suitable at the time I sit down to write. It may be serious, or tongue in cheek, or I may, sense forbid, try and be amusing. Please forgive the attempts at the latter.

What I write will be influenced by my moods, at times it will be my attempts to clarify my own thoughts and I may very well contradict myself from one blog to the next. I will probably use the blog to shamelessly plug the work of people I respect and admire. Plugs for my own work will hopefully appear here in due course.

The blog is entitled Eyes in the Afternoon because the only thing that links what I write is it is the world as seen by my eyes. And I am in the afternoon of my life. For those of you who are particularly nosey I am thirty-three years old. I like to think it is the early afternoon.

I will write whenever I have an internet connection. Sometimes I travel to places that don't and I am far too tight to pay for a dongle. So there will be gaps. It cannot be helped.

I hope you enjoy this blog, I really do. But more I hope it helps me clear the seaweed from the beaches of my head.